ARS 13-1201 is the Arizona statute that defines the crime of endangerment. People commit this offense if they recklessly put someone at risk of imminent death or physical injury. Depending on the facts of the case, an endangerment conviction is a Class 6 felony punishable by a state prison sentence of up to two years.
The language of ARS 13-1201 states that “a person commits endangerment by recklessly endangering another person with a substantial risk of imminent death or physical injury.”
- stabbing a person in their home when children are in an adjoining room.
- driving under the influence (DUI) with a group of passengers in the car.
- starting a fire in a small apartment complex.
Criminal defense attorneys draw upon several legal strategies to defend against endangerment charges. Sone of these include showing that:
- there was no risk of death or serious physical injury,
- there was no reckless act, and/or
- the defendant acted out of necessity.
Endangerment is a wobbler in Arizona, meaning that it can be filed as either:
- Class 6 felonies, or
- Class 1 misdemeanors.
A Class 6 felony is typically punished by prison time of up to two years.
A Class 1 misdemeanor is typically punished by custody in jail for up to six months.
In this article, our Phoenix Arizona criminal defense attorneys will discuss what the law is under this statute, defenses available if charged, the penalties for a conviction, and related crimes.
1. How does Arizona law define “endangerment”?
People are guilty of endangerment under ARS 13-1201 when:
- they commit some reckless act, and
- the act puts another person, or persons, at risk of imminent death or at risk of physical injury.1
The crime of endangerment is sometimes referred to as “reckless endangerment.”
“Recklessness” is when a person is aware of, but consciously disregards, a substantial and unjustifiable risk that an act will cause some harm. The risk must be of such a nature that the disregard of it constitutes a gross deviation from the conduct of a reasonable person.2
Note that criminal charges can be brought under this statute even if the endangerment does not actually lead to a physical injury. All that matters is that there is a risk of death or injury.3
Further, in the State of Arizona, endangerment could get charged as a dangerous offense if the defendant used a dangerous instrument in the course of the crime.
Vehicular endangerment is a form of endangerment where an offender creates a risk of death or injury while operating a motor vehicle.
2. Are there defenses to charges under ARS 13-1201?
People charged with endangerment can contest the charge with a legal defense. A good defense can create a reasonable doubt that the accused committed a crime.
A few common defenses in these cases include the defendant showing that:
- there was no risk of death or injury.
- there was no reckless act.
- he/she acted out of necessity.
2.1 No risk
Recall that a person is only guilty pursuant to this criminal law if he/she took some act that committed a risk of death or injury. Therefore, it is always a defense to show that a defendant’s actions did not create a risk of harm.
2.2 No reckless act
Also recall that the crime of endangerment requires that a person take some type of reckless act that creates a risk of serious consequences. A defense, then, is for the defendant to show that he/she never committed a reckless act or acted recklessly.
Under a necessity defense, a defendant tries to avoid guilt by showing that he/she had a sufficiently good reason to commit the crime. In the context of endangerment, an accused could attempt to show that he committed the crime since he had no other choice (for example, because of an emergency).
3. What are the penalties?
A violation of ARS 13-1201 can lead to either a felony charge or a misdemeanor charge depending on the facts of the case.
Endangerment will be charged as a Class 6 felony if it involves substantial risk of imminent death.4
In all other cases, endangerment will be charged as a Class 1 misdemeanor.5
While felony endangerment is normally punishable by up to two years in state prison, misdemeanor endangerment is typically punishable by custody in jail for six months.
Note that in cases of vehicular endangerment, a defendant may have endangered someone because of alcohol impairment. In these cases, the defendant may face both:
- endangerment charges, and
- DUI charges.
4. Are there related crimes?
There are three crimes related to endangerment. These are:
- vehicular manslaughter – ARS 13-1103,
- DUI – ARS 28-1381A1, and
- negligent homicide – ARS 13-1102.
4.1 Vehicular manslaughter – ARS 13-1103
ARS 13-1103 is the Arizona statute that defines the offense of manslaughter. A person commits vehicular manslaughter if he/she causes the death of another while driving a car recklessly.
Like endangerment, this offense requires an element of recklessness.
4.2 DUI – ARS 28-1381A1
Per ARS 28-1381A1, people commit the crime of DUI if they drive or are in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of:
- an intoxicating liquor,
- any drug,
- a vapor releasing substance containing a toxic substance, or
- any combination of liquor, drugs, or vapor.
As stated above, a person can be found guilty of both endangerment and DUI depending on the facts of the case.
4.3 Negligent homicide – ARS 13-1102
ARS 13-1102 is the Arizona statute that says people commit the crime of negligent homicide if they:
- cause the death of another person or an unborn child, and
- do so via a criminally negligent act.
Criminal negligence is similar to recklessness in so far that a person acts with a disregard to the substantial risk that his/her actions create.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer, we invite you to contact our law office at the Shouse Law Group. Our attorneys provide both free consultations and legal advice you can trust.
- Arizona Revised Statutes 13-1201A. See also State v. Rivera (2011) 226 Ariz. 325.
- State v. Doss (1998) 192 Ariz. 408. Note that reckless acts include reckless driving.
- Campas v. Superior Court (1989) 159 Ariz. 343.
- A.R.S. 13-1201B.
- See same.